New York City parents who filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s attempt to cut funding to the city’s schools because the city and the teachers union could not reach agreement on a new teacher evaluation plan have stopped the $260 million education cuts from taking effect this month. The New York State Supreme Court issued preliminary injunctions against both the state and the city, finding that the cuts did pose a potential risk to children’s right to a sound basic education.
Filed by attorney Michael A. Rebell on February 5, 2013, the complaint argues that penalizing New York City kids for the city and the union’s failure to agree on a teacher evaluation plan is unconstitutional. The complaint claims that the penalty denies New York City students funds that are necessary to provide them a sound basic education for reasons wholly unrelated to educational need. It also asserts that the penalty violates constitutional equal protection because all public school students in the state except those in New York City are receiving the full amount that the legislature deemed necessary to provide a sound basic education in their budget deliberations last spring.
After hearing oral arguments on plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, Justice Manuel Mendez held that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on these claims, and he issued a preliminary injunction to prevent “vulnerable students” from being harmed while the case proceeds to trial. The state has announced its intention to appeal the preliminary injunction ruling. After the court issued the injunction, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced that the Assembly would seek to have the penalty revoked during this month’s negotiations on a state budget for 2013-2014.
Yet despite these developments, New York City announced in early March that it would still reduce educational services to students because of concerns for “fiscal prudence” in case the injunction against the state is overturned on appeal. Rebell amended his complaint, naming the city and the chancellor as defendants, and secured a temporary restraining order that prevents the city from moving forward with the cuts until at least the next court date, set for April 2. The City has now indicated that it will not reduce services while the case is pending.